"But it's obvious by now, isn't it, that Christ's church is a complete Body and not a gigantic unidimensional Part? It's not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. And yet some of you keep competing for the 'so-called' important parts..."
1 Cor -30 Message.
They're nothing new. The Christian Olympics are the offshoot of their parent, The Religious Olympics. That storied organization's roots trace back to those words spoken long ago. "I am like the most High," Isa. Youngs. No surprise the first murder was the result of a fight over whose sacrifice was correct. The pressure to perform has been non-stop ever since.
Competition is woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. Kids compete for good grades to gain entrance into better schools than their peers, in order to get really good jobs. Adults attempt to outwork each other for promotions, pay raises and corner offices. These finance another level of competition. Who has the biggest house, newest car and more toys than their co-workers and neighbors? Those unwilling to join the hamster wheel lifestyle are labeled slackers. Unfortunately, these same behavioral patterns carried over and took root in the Church.
Pastors compare numbers determining who has largest congregation and the most programs with willing participants. Kids square off in Bible drills and scripture memory contests. Not necessarily wrong in and of themselves, the danger comes when genuine love of God and spiritual service is confused with Christian competition. When numbers and physical manifestations of growth/development mask one-upmanship and shallowness there's a problem.
Today, we're in good company. The disciples squabbled about who would be tops in the Kingdom. James and John's mother lobbied the Lord on their behalf. Paul's letter here indicates that this same jockeying for position and notoriety was evident in the early church. Just like us, they struggled to keep an intimate relationship with God from devolving into a cut-throat race to the top.
How much of what we do is fueled by an overactive sense of duty? We just have to do something to please God...right? Intimacy is so private and invisible; nobody notices. One step further, how much of our action is really an effort to see who winds up with biggest mansion, the most crowns, and the loudest "atta boy!" from God. Stardom here is fleeting, in Heaven it's eternal. Or so we may think.
Like their brothers the Corinthians, the Ephesians had this same problem. Paul addressed it head-on.
"He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christian in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's son, full mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ." Eph. 4:11-15. Message.(emphasis mine)
Paul did wish the Ephesians would exert themselves, in this aspect.
"And I ask Him that with both feet firmly planted on love, you'll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God." Eph. 3:20-21 Message.
If we insist on knocking ourselves out for anything, this would be well worth our efforts.
How about you? Would you describe your Christian experience as a hamster wheel run or restful abiding? Are the things you do for God either consciously or subconsciously rooted in a spirit of competition with other believers? How can you determine when your actions are genuinely divinely inspired or just part of the Christian Olympics? Be encouraged to believe and receive. God's love for you is never tied to performance. It is His gift of love to you.